Friday, December 12, 2003

Endings, no endings, too many endings, and a ham sandwich. (Not really.)

Darth Swank also points out a common criticism I'm hearing about Return of the King, even in reviews that are overwhelmingly positive: the movie has too many endings. Obviously I don't know yet, since I haven't seen it, but this makes sense, given that the book itself goes on for another two hundred pages or so after the, well, resolution of the War of the Ring. But I wonder now if maybe audiences are getting too accustomed to following a single plotline and, when that plotline ends, expecting the credits to roll with a minimum of epilogue. One thing I've always admired about Tolkien's great opus is the way he precisely spends all this time, showing in detail that life really does go on. My oft-cited Guy Gavriel Kay also does an outstanding job of this, while -- to name a pretty normal example in SF fandom -- Neal Stephenson does not. (Stephenson's books tend to stop, as opposed to end.)

The most extreme example of what I'm talking about is the Ron Howard thriller Ransom, which rolls the credits while the blood is still oozing from the bad guy's death-wounds. But I also remember how, when I saw The Fellowship of the Ring in the theater, there were people who first of all did not apparently realize that the film was only "Part One"; there were audible sighs of consternation when the credits rolled with Frodo and Sam heading down toward Mordor. And what struck me even more was that a few people actually went to the bathroom during the last scene and came back in while the credits were rolling; they were so accustomed to a definite end that they figured they were safe for a bathroom break at a point when the story was obviously not ending.

I'm not sure if I have a point here, really -- just some random observation. Move along.

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